Although the legend says Siddhartha Gautama sat underneath the Bhodi tree in Bodh Gaya, India for 40 nights and 40 days we don’t actually know for certain how long he sat, but we do know he came to some conclusions that led to The Four Noble Truths.
Siddhartha is who we commonly refer to as The Buddha, or more accurately he is known as the Supreme Buddha because the word Buddha simply means “awakened one” or “the enlightened one” rather than an individual.
This is why we are all Buddha’s. In the first few months after birth we have no beliefs, opinions, religion or even language. At this point we don’t know we are human or that we are different to the dog or the teddy we are given.
Then we become aware that we are somebody, a separate self. This is the first and fundamental conscious change that makes us as humans and animals different from other living things such as plants.
However, humans don’t stop there. We then get bombarded with beliefs and opinions at the same time we are trying to identify who we are. So for the next few years we develop an ego and an identity of who this person is inside. We get told all sorts of things like “that’s amazing, I think you will become an artist” or “you’re really caring, you should become a nurse or a doctor”.
Little seeds that grow to become a burden or a challenge. They become our identity. Now of course there are many other things, from religion, cultures, social environments and demographics, that all play a part.
So if I asked you the question today, “Who are you?”
What would you say?
You may have an answer similar to this…
“I am a caring parent, as well as a teacher and a loving daughter” or “I am a hard-working builder, a Christian and a good boss to my 2000 employees”.
But who were you before you became those things?
Who are you really?
Of course, the answer to that is simple. You don’t know! How can you know?
This is one of the realisations of waking up, or enlightenment. Everything you have become is nothing more than a figment of your imagination. You have become your experience and the stories you tell and the memories you have.
Let’s get back to The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism and in particular the first two.
The first one is quite clear. Normal ongoing life brings pain from daily knock backs to old age as well as physical pain.
Let’s focus now on what about attachments. We are either trying to avoid bad situations or trying to cling to good times. We know about the pain of losing someone close to us, heartbroken when we split up from a love relationship, or breaking a favoured childhood cup that meant something special, but what about other attachments.
One of the biggest attachments that causes most pain but rarely recognised is attachment to our identity.
The attachment to who we are as a person. If anybody challenges our religion, our ethics or our ability, we almost immediately take it as an insult, reacting with some show of anger, whether it’s because we are feeling shame, guilt or just passionate about the thing they mentioned.
Basically, they hit a nerve! See what happens when an apprentice tries telling a teacher a better way of doing something.
This happens because of our attachment to our identity.
But what identity? We never had one in the first few months of life. This identity was given to us by our parents, teachers, friends and other influences from our social background to our cultures. Your demographics have significantly more to do with who you become as opposed to the genes you are born with.
When we fully embody and embrace the impermanence of our identity, we then soften our stance and our attachment to who we are. This gives us an amazing opportunity to then become who we want to be, to retrain and regrow new seeds rather than the ones that were planted for us by people that meant well but never realised the full impact of what they said at the time.
Your life can be whatever you truly desire! You can be whoever you truly want to be! Simply embrace the fact that who you become is not grown in stone.
Who are you?
Updated for 2023